PROPOSED cuts to services for disabled children in the county are lawful – the High Court has ruled.
Last week we reported how the families of two disabled children had brought action against Warwickshire County Council claiming its consultation on proposals to slash £1.8million from spending on services for disabled youngsters was unlawful.
But despite recognising the authority had fallen short of its responsibilities to give a comprehensive ‘local offer’ to residents, the court ruled the proposals were lawful at a hearing last week.
Sitting in the High Court Mr Justice Mostyn said Warwickshire County Council’s local offer, a legal responsibility to set out information on all services, fell ‘a considerable distance short of the statuory requirements’.
And he criticised the authority’s lack of a single register for disabled children in the county.
But the court said there had been no breach of duty in consulting families on the proposed new social care policy and accompanying budget cuts, including a change which will mean families have to prove their child’s needs rather than having a right to an assessment.
Polly Sweeney, from Irwin Mitchell representing the families, said they were disappointed.
“We are pleased the court has accepted our arguments regarding the lawfulness of the defendant’s local offer and hope that this judgment sends out a message to local authorities that they have to take their new duties introduced under the Children and Families Act 2014 seriously,” she said.
“The court also emphasised the importance of local authorities having a register of disabled children so they can plan properly for budgets and services to support them.
“However, we are very disappointed that the court has ruled that disabled children are not automatically entitled to a social care assessment and we are concerned that this judgment will leave disabled children across the country in a vulnerable position without access to proper assessments.
“We also remain of the view that the defendant has not consulted properly on its final proposals to limit access to social care services.”
Ms Sweeney said the complainants intend to appeal against the decision regarding the lawfulness of the consultation.
A county council spokesperson said work was already under way to work closely with families to make improvements to the information available to young people and establish a disability register.